It's easy to go through years at a job without discovering a higher purpose in your work. We're taught to find a job that pays the bills and keeps us busy but don't always ask ourselves if we truly care about it. Then, after a while, we find that we're feeling completely bored and directionless at work. We might even begin to wonder what the whole purpose of our lives is.
"The first step to finding a larger purpose in your work is getting rid of the term 'work,'" spiritual and life coach Christina Giaquinto tells Bustle. "Begin to change your perspective by understanding the difference between a job and your purpose. Often, people feel unfulfilled because they go to a job that provides one thing for them — a paycheck — but does not fulfill their heart in any other way."
"A purpose is your calling," she says. "A purpose cannot be taken away from you. It is the entire reason you are here and the gift you will leave behind in this world. Discovering your purpose is what will motivate you every day. It will keep your faith alive through hard times. You need something that feels bigger then you."
But how do you find it? Here are some questions to ask to find a larger purpose in your work, whether that means finding more meaning at your current job or starting a new one that's more meaningful to you.
1Why Are You Doing It?
If you want to know your job's purpose, ask yourself what makes you do it in the first place, says Giaquinto. Maybe it's just to pay the bills. But maybe there's a reason you chose to pay the bills that way — or maybe you need to find a more fulfilling way.
"Do you believe in the mission of the company you work for? Do you support the vision of your CEO? Do you feel like your work is contributing to the greater good of the world?" says Giaquinto. "You need to ask yourself these questions, because your happiness is dependent on knowing you will wake up tomorrow and actively work toward fulfilling your purpose."
2What Are You Most Proud Of?
The work that we're most proud of, whether it's something we did ourselves or something our company did as a team, is likely what has most meaning to us.
"If you work for someone else, you should have respect and admiration for what you do, sell, or work on," says Giaquinto. "You should feel like you did something you are proud of. If you own your own business, you should find fulfillment knowing you had a vision — a dream — and you are working every day to bring it to life!"
3What Are Others Grateful For?
Reminding yourself of how you've already improved people's lives will make you feel important and inspire you to make even more of a difference.
"Keep a folder of your 'thank you' notes, emails, and any other communication that has impacted the way you positively see yourself and your role within your organization," Alissa Carpenter, M. Ed, Millennial Career Coach, Professional Trainer, and owner of the blog Not OK, That’s OK, tells Bustle. "Read through them to see if there are any common themes in how you work with people, go out of your way to find information, or are more efficient than others when completing a project. Use this information to guide you in uncovering your strengths, talents, and purpose. Seeing through the eyes of others can reveal more than we can see ourselves."
4What Brings You Joy?
We tend to take joy in the things we find meaning in. "Think about a time when you lost track of what you were doing and felt in the zone," Carpenter advises. "Were you writing a proposal? Giving a presentation to a new client? Researching a new process? Brainstorming new ideas? When we lose track of time and are excited about what we’re doing, we are using our strengths and talents and working toward a purpose we’re passionate about."
5What Is My Role In My Company?
Your supervisor may have a better idea than you do of how your work fits into the company and its larger mission, so ask them if you're stumped. "If you answer client questions or start a sales process, follow up to find out how it went," says Carpenter. "Seeing how your work has increased sales, landed a new client, or enhanced a process will help you find a deeper purpose in your role."
6What Gap Am I Filling?
If you believe in your work, you likely believe you're solving a problem. You're filling a gap in the market. "Why does your company exist? What gap is it filling for its clients or consumers in the real world?" Consultant and Coach Lisa Sansom tells Bustle.
"There may appear to be some industries where this can be easier to answer than others: education, for example, exists to educate students and prepare them for the working world and to be positive contributing members of society," she says. "Health care exists to take care of the sick and ailing. Yet nearly every company or industry can point to some social good that it fills, and if you cannot find this or do not believe in it, then you may want to find yourself a position in another company or industry that aligns with your values, and does provide you with meaning and purpose."
7What Changes Do I Want To See In The World?
Sansom recommends thinking of your vision for the world and working backwards to figure out how you can make that vision a reality. "Another way to find more meaning and purpose in your specific job is to engage in a 'job-crafting' exercise, often with the help of a coach or your manager," she says. "This involves looking at the outcomes that your job requires and crafting 'how' you deliver on those outcomes so that the process of your job and the daily tasks provide more meaning and purpose."
If you're not in a job that you feel has a higher purpose, it may be time for a new one, because you don't want to go your whole life wondering what it would be like to do something you really cared about.